Each year we celebrate March as Women’s History Month, and we salute women who throughout history have sacrificed to bring to the world’s attention those issues that mean so much to us as humans. Remember the women who fought for the right for women to vote? These brave and intelligent women were incarcerated, beaten and treated as criminals for the cause of equality in voting.
Twenty years ago at the World Conference on Women, it was declared that human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights. Since then, we have seen a number of global milestones for women’s health and equity. For example, the youngest ever to receive a Nobel Peace Prize was Malala Yousafzai, as she fought for girls to be educated in her country of Pakistan (but it is no longer safe for her to live there).
The first female president of an African country, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has strongly and bravely led Liberia to peace and a better standard of living. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is now being led by the party of a very strong and committed woman, Aung San Suu Kyi (although she is prevented from serving as president due to regulations against her children living abroad). She sacrificed for years under house arrest in Burma while not allowed to see her dying husband and her children.
Rachel Carson studied toxic chemicals in our environment for many years and tried to educate people about these hazards in her book “Silent Spring.” Alice Paul, Marie Curie, Margaret Sanger and Althea Gibson, in various fields of endeavor, led the campaigns that brought changes in many ways. However, we still have a long way to go, and unacceptable challenges remain, including a gender gap in equitable pay, domestic violence and unequal political representation of women in political office.
As we remember those who fought for women’s rights and the milestones and achievements of so many women, let us restate our commitment to continue on a path of equality for all.
Jane B. Schildge